- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

A Saudi billionaire with close ties to the royal family in Riyadh has sent a private letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsing the forcible removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
U.S. officials say the letter from hotel magnate Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber illustrates that while the oil kingdom's rulers take the public position of opposing war, many prominent Saudis want Saddam removed by force.
"The regime of Saddam Hussein is vicious and has to be removed as a first step," Mr. Al Jaber says to Mr. Powell in the Feb. 19 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
"After that, reformers in other countries will take heart and the balance of power will shift to trade liberalization, democracy and human rights. Above all, the youth of the Middle East will be liberated once and for all."
Mr. Al Jaber wrote that he was "moved" by Mr. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council in which the secretary delivered an impassioned speech on how Baghdad continues to defy U.N. edicts to disarm.
Mr. Al Jaber is one of the world's richest men and is a significant figure in Saudi society. He has business and social ties to the ruling royal family, owns businesses with assets of more than $3 billion, and operates scholarships and foundations to educate poor Arabs in prestigious schools.
Mr. Al Jaber is chairman and chief executive officer of MBI International & Partners, a London-based conglomerate with holdings in luxury hotels, the food industry and construction. In October, he hosted a star-studded party at his latest acquisition, the Grand Hotel Wien in Vienna, Austria, with entertainment provided by the Vienna Boys Choir.
Like President Bush and senior administration officials, Mr. Al Jaber views the fall of Saddam as the beginning of a Middle East transformation that will lead to more moderate regimes.
"With this communication I want to place myself and all that I can do my businesses, my relationships within the region and my knowledge of its culture at the service of this transformation," Mr. Al Jaber said in his letter to Mr. Powell.
A U.S. official said Mr. Al Jaber is willing to commit some of his fortune to help in the rebuilding of a postwar Iraq. Mr. Bush appears to be close to a decision to order an invasion to topple Saddam and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction that might otherwise fall into the hands of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
Mr. Al Jaber wrote, "I want to convey the scale of my ambitions in this respect to the extent that I am willing to take a public stance as an Arab on helping to create the conditions for the educational renaissance of the Iraqi people after the removal of Saddam Hussein, to help finance and organize finance from other sympathizers and to plan to extend such programs to other parts of the region.
"I have built my business over two decades and my ambition to use liberalized education to transform the Middle East was the basis of personal charitable commitments. … I see Arabs and Americans as partners in the cultural, educational, social and economic transformation of the region. The necessary first stage is the removal of Saddam Hussein. The second state, reconstruction, is about hearts and minds."
Saudi Arabia is a major Persian Gulf ally of the United States. It allowed tens of thousands of American troops and hundreds of combat jets to assemble on its soil for the invasion that liberated Kuwait 12 years ago.
But in subsequent U.S. military operations, the Saudi royal family has imposed limits. In the 1998 Desert Fox bombing, it refused to allow strike aircraft to use its bases.
In the current invasion plan, Saudi Arabia would allow use of Prince Sultan air base and the U.S. Air Force's Combined Air Operations Center. But it would not allow strike aircraft to take off from Prince Sultan to bomb targets in Iraq.
Most coalition ground troops that would participate in an Iraq war are deployed in Kuwait, from where they would begin an invasion toward key cities, including Basra in the south and Baghdad in the north.


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